Cherusseri Kuttan Marar to lead Urakam melam for 25th year

Cherusseri Kuttan Marar: Leading Urakam Melam for 25 Years, a Silver Jubilee Celebration
Cherusseri Kuttan Marar
Cherusseri Kuttan Marar

#Ajayan

Kochi | As the Peruvanam-Arattupuzha Pooram season approaches, the air will soon be filled with the pulsating rhythms of melams. Enthusiasts of these festivals eagerly anticipate the Makayiram purappad pandimelam at the Urakkthamma Tiruvadi temple on the night of March 17.

This year holds special significance as it marks the silver jubilee of the pandimelam under the leadership of Cherusseri Kuttan Marar. Cherusseri recalls how, at the young age of 32, he was entrusted with leading this melam, which had previously been led by stalwarts. Despite feeling the pressure, he credits his success to the experience gained from performing with great musicians and the lessons imparted by his father, the legendary Kumarapuram Appu Marar. Cherusseri remains humble, saying, "By God’s grace, things went well and to this date there is a big crowd that gathers to hear this melam," showcasing his modesty, which has always been his hallmark.

Cherusseri's musical odyssey commenced at a mere three years of age, under the tutelage of his father, who initiated him into the intricate world of melam. Throughout his formative years, he was privileged to hear profound discussions on the art form, as renowned maestros sought his father's counsel at home. These invaluable experiences have significantly shaped his artistry, culminating in his remarkable rendition of the Nadavazhi pancharimelam at Peruvanam, which stands as yet another timeless classic in his illustrious repertoire.

Cherusseri's illustrious lineage distinguishes him as a leader in the art of percussion. His father, Appu Marar, was revered as an 'encyclopedia' in the realm of melams. Renowned as a melam artiste, astrologer and expert in logic, he served as the trusted advisor to luminaries such as Chitali Raman Marar, Peruvanam Appu Marar, Makkoth Nanu Marar and Trippekulam Achuta Marar to name a few.

On the maternal side, Cherusseri's lineage traces back to the illustrious Pandarathil family. The genesis of the current form of the Panchari melam dates back roughly 500 years when the renowned writer and scholar Mazhamangalathu Narayanan Namboodiri conceptualized it. This artistic vision was brought to fruition by Pandarathil Rama Marar, who at the time, oversaw the festivities at the Urakam temple. Mazhamangalam, known for his devotion to the Urakam deity, is believed to have dedicated this melam to the Goddess herself.

As a young lad, Cherusseri was engaged in regular percussion offerings for various pujas and rituals at temples as part of familial duties. But his father demonstrated a visionary outlook. Recognizing the modest earnings of a chenda artiste, he mandated that his son complete his graduation before immersing himself fully in the art. After fulfilling this prerequisite, Cherusseri was formally initiated into the art through his arangetram at Tiruvallakavu temple near Urakam in 1988.

In the brief span following his father's demise, Cherusseri found himself burdened with the responsibility of providing for his sisters and mother. This propelled him into a full-time career as a percussion artiste, embarking on extensive travels and collaborating with diverse talents. He acknowledges that these experiences, in the company of stalwarts, were instrumental in honing his craft.

Cherusseri stresses that a successful melam transcends mere solo performances, embodying a harmonious collaboration among all the artistes involved. He considers himself fortunate to have artistes such as Kombath Anil on kurumkuzhal, Machad Manikantan on kombu, Thalore Peethambaran on valamthala and Kummath Nandanan on ilathalam as integral members of his ensemble this time.

He has led the melams at festivals in various prestigious temples, including Kuttanellur, Irinjalakuda, Triprayar, Kodungaloor, Tripunithura, Ernakulam, Chottanikkara, Koduntharappilly, Puthucode, Nenmara, Chinakkathoor, Angadipuram, Kottayam, Sabarimala and Sree Padmanabhaswamy.

Cherusseri Kuttan Marar
Cherusseri Kuttan Marar
Cherusseri Kuttan Marar
Cherusseri Kuttan Marar

While the Ilanjithara pandimelam at Thrissur Pooram has garnered considerable popularity, it is the Makayiram purappad melam at Urakam that draws connoisseurs of the art form. Following the chembada and the customary para, the deity is brought outside the temple premises around 11 pm, marking the commencement of the pandimelam. This segment unfolds in a cloistered area, where the kolumbal captivates listeners for nearly 50 minutes.

The pinnacle of success in this section is achieved when the kuzhal and kombu pramanis synchronize flawlessly with the melam leader's rhythm, creating a rich tapestry of sound, filling each space. Subsequently, a vilambakaalm ensues, described by Vinod Kandemkavil, a follower of poorams and author of a book chronicling the poorams of Peruvanam, Arattupuzha and Thrissur, as akin to a fully-laden truck ascending a slope gradually. This is followed by the thurannu pidikkal, an hour-long crescendo culminating in an experience likened to a refreshing shower on a sultry Kumbham night.

To Vinod, Cherusseri epitomizes the essence of these melams, skillfully guiding the symphony to its crescendo and conclusion with precision and artistry. Cherusseri's rich background, performing alongside maestros and absorbing wisdom from his lineage, renders his performances truly inspirational. His stern stance, ability to visualize the path the melam takes to reach the crescendo and guiding a team makes him stand out. Vinod believes that experiencing just this one melam of Cherusseri at Urakam can imbue an individual with energy for an entire year.

Cherusseri Kuttan Marar
Cherusseri Kuttan Marar

Korappath Gopinath, a former Devaswom official and devoted enthusiast of melams, perceives Cherusseri's uniqueness in his application of traditional knowledge acquired over the years. Cherusseri steadfastly adheres to traditional methods, guiding the grand orchestra to unparalleled heights. Even amidst the melodic crescendo, he remains composed, eschewing any semblance of gimmickry, Gopinath affirms

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